Time can be a fire in which we burn or a teacher from whom we learn
Time is a formidable, inexorable force that pushes us all towards death when our body will be burnt in the funeral fire. Even if in our tradition the body is not burnt, we will still lose at death everything we have held dear. And that loss will be no less painful than being burnt in a fierce fire.
Depicting this scary reality, the Bhagavad-gita in its eleventh chapter describes the kala-rupa, the manifestation of the divine as all-devouring time (11.32). The mouth of this fierce form emanates fire and engulfs everyone, thereby driving home the ultimate futility of all material pursuits.
The temporariness of the material is meant to provoke within us existential questions: What actually lasts? What really matters? What is life meant for? These questions point us towards life’s spiritual side, as revealed in wisdom-texts such as the Bhagavad-gita. Unfortunately, most of us don’t ponder existential questions; we prefer to exist in denial of death and enjoy worldly pleasures.
When students are not interested in an important subject, a good teacher doesn’t just continue teaching, but does whatever is necessary to kindle the students’ interest. Similar is the purpose of the supreme teacher, Krishna, in his form as time. When he teaches the Bhagavad-gita, not many of us are interested. To trigger our interest, he as time depicts graphically the ephemerality of everything material. Even if we don’t see the kala-rupa, we can see time’s destructive power all around us. Time makes smooth faces shriveled, athletic physiques paraplegic and sharp brains senile.
If we learn from Krishna as time the ultimate futility of the material, we open ourselves to Krishna as the speaker of the Gita and as our inner guide. And he leads us to the unending serenity of the spiritual.
Think it over:
• How is time like a fire?
• How is time like a teacher?
• How do Krishna as time and Krishna as our spiritual guide teach together?
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